Monday, June 27, 2016

Rhubarb-Cassis Sauce with Homemade Crème Fraîche

Ah, rhubarb! Although not quite as fleeting in the garden as peonies, it should be enjoyed as soon as it's ready to pick and enjoyed often. I grew up eating rhubarb sauce that my mother made from her garden rhubarb patch.  I don't know of any better way to turn a vegetable into dessert. That's right, rhubarb is actually a vegetable!

This rhubarb sauce recipe was inspired by Jacques Pepin's newest cookbook Heart and Soul in the Kitchen. I love Jacques Pepin and used to enjoy watching him cook together with Julia Child on their PBS television series "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home" in 1999-2000. Did you know, besides his culinary expertise, that he is also a wonderful artist?

Jacques' version of rhubarb sauce is made with honey and Creme de Cassis, which is a liqueur made from black currants.  I always have a bottle of Creme de Cassis in the refrigerator and love a half teaspoon or so in a glass of white wine or champagne in the summer (Kir and Kir Royale, respectively).  It's also delicious poured over vanilla ice cream or a dish of fruit. Great reasons to own a bottle of Creme de Cassis!

His recipe is served with a sweetened, sour cream and yogurt sauce but my version is served with my own, homemade crème fraîche. It's ridiculously easy and so, so good. It's slightly tart, but not as tart as sour cream, thick and creamy.  If you've ever shopped for crème fraîche in the store you'll know why it pays to make your own as it's quite expensive for a small container.

The past few weeks I've actually tried two different recipes for crème fraîche after seeing a few of my blogging friends recommend making your own, such as Madonna at Make Mine Lemon.  I had also done a little research and found another recipe from What's Cooking America that mentions using sour cream instead of buttermilk to thicken and activate the heavy cream used to make crème fraîche.  I liked the sour cream version slightly more the the buttermilk version and I seem to have sour cream in my home more often than buttermilk so I'm glad I tried it! 

The rhubarb sauce is delicious and I was surprised how wonderful it tasted with the homemade crème fraîche.  Try it!

In the garden, all my favorite clematis are blooming now! Betty Corning, Warsaw Nike, Perrin's Pride make a lovely corner on the fence. Ashva, Madame Julia Correvon, Piilu and Arabella are the beautiful ladies on the bottom.  Don't you love the names?

I hope you are enjoying the start of summer as much as I am! Bon appetit!

Rhubarb-Cassis Sauce

Printable Recipe

1 pound rhubarb stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup honey, or agave nectar
1/4 cup Creme de Cassis, or any sweet, fruity liqueur

Place all ingredients into a heavy saucepan and stir together over medium heat.Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, cover and reduce the heat to low.

Cook for approximately 10-12 minutes, or until the rhubarb has softened. Allow to cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve, place about 1 cup of rhubarb sauce in a pretty glass serving dish and top with a generous spoonful of homemade crème fraîche. Garnish with berries or mint.

Note: I had a few fresh raspberries in the refrigerator so I added them to the chilled sauce.

Adapted from Heart and Soul in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin

Homemade Crème Fraîche

Printable Recipe

Please note that you will have to start the crème fraîche at least 30 hours before you need to use it. It needs 24 hours to thicken to the right consistency plus 6 hours of chilling time.

8 ounces/1 cup heavy (whipping) cream (Do not use ultra pasteurized)
4 ounces/1/2 cup regular sour cream, at room temperature, or, 1 tablespoon Buttermilk
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar (optional). (Use if you prefer a slightly sweeter version for dessert use, omit for a more savory version)

Place all ingredients into a glass jar with lid and shake thoroughly to blend. Remove the lid and cover the jar with a small cloth or piece of paper toweling secured with a rubber band or twine.

Leave on the kitchen counter at room temperature for 24 hours, stirring once or twice.

After the mixture has thickened sufficiently (it will thicken faster in a warm room), stir, cover tightly and refrigerate for another 6 hours before using.

Adapted from What's Cooking America

Monday, June 13, 2016

Pecan and Coconut Strawberry Shortcakes


If you have a special Dad in your life, you must make these shortcakes for him this Sunday!  Strawberry shortcake is a traditional favorite at our home for Father's Day since it is always strawberry season here at that time. This recipe kicks up traditional strawberry shortcake up several notches!

The perfect, tender biscuit-like shortcakes made with chopped pecans and toasted coconut are so delicious! I even used the scraps of dough to make small biscuits that I froze and had for breakfast for a few days.  I could make the shortcake dough over and over just for biscuits. They are that good. 

Filled with macerated strawberries and whipped cream, they would be a delicious end to a Father's Day Barbecue and your special Dad will be so appreciative.

Here in the garden it is the season for peonies! I appreciate them every day because the season is gone so quickly and the scent is so heavenly.

Peonies will always remind me of our daughter's wedding in mid June as they are the flowers she requested for her wedding.  She and her husband are celebrating their 9th anniversary this week and we have been blessed with three wonderful young grandsons since then :)

So, Happy Anniversary to our daughter and son-in-law and a very Happy Father's Day to all the wonderful dads this weekend! And my heart goes out to those father's who are grieving over the loss of their sons and daughters in Orlando.

Pecan and Coconut Strawberry Shortcakes

Printable Recipe

Serves 8-10, depending on size of shortcake cutter you use

For the Shortcakes:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. heavy cream, divided
1 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

Silicone baking sheet Liner or parchment paper
Whole pecan halves
Unsweetened shredded coconut

For the Strawberries:

2 lbs strawberries, halved and sliced
1/4 - 1/3 cup granulated sugar, depending on how sweet you like them
1-2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Triple Sec liqueur (or freshly squeezed orange juice)

Garnish: Sweetened Whipped Cream or Sweetened Mascarpone Cream

Preheat oven to 350F.

Toast the coconut on a baking sheet for about 5-6 minutes, watching carefully so it does not burn. Toss coconut occasionally for even browning. Let cool.

Toast the pecans on another backing sheet for about 7 minutes until fragrant and slightly browned. Allow to cool.

Whisk together flour, sugar and baking power in a large bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or large fork until just combined. Do not overwork.

Transfer the toasted coconut into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until finely chopped. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the 4 eggs, vanilla and 1 cup heavy cream. Add the egg mixture, chopped pecans, and toasted coconut to the bowl with the flour mixture and stir with a large spoon or spatula until just blended. The dough will still be moist.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, and gently knead 2-3 times. Pat the dough to a uniform 1 to 1-1/2 inch thickness. Using a 3-inch cutter, cut the dough without twisting the cutter and place on a silicone mat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Reshape dough gently and cut remaining dough. You may use a smaller cutter to use up the scapes. The dough makes wonderful biscuits to eat with breakfast all by themselves!

Turn oven heat up to 400F.

Chill cut dough for at least 15 minutes. Afterward, brush each shortcake with the remaining 1 tablespoon cream and press one pecan half on top. Sprinkle with coconut.

Bake shortcakes at 400° for about 18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on pan placed on a baking rack for at least 20 minutes.

About 1 hour before serving, prepare the strawberries by stirring the cut strawberries together with sugar, liqueur or orange juice. Allow to macerate at room temperature, stirring occasionally.

To serve, split the shortcakes in half horizontally. Place a shortcake bottom on each dessert plate, and top with about a generous scoop of strawberries and top with sweetened whipped cream or sweetened Mascarpone Cream

Adapted from Southern Living